Memorial Day is a time to honor and recognize the service of our veterans in general and Latino veterans in particular, as well as the many immigrants who have served in combat or enlisted in the U.S. armed forces.
You need not be a war supporter to honor those who serve honorably in them. This Memorial Day marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, one of the most controversial armed conflicts in the history of the United States. During this war with a mandatory draft, more than 3,000 Latino soldiers out of the more than 170,000 who served died.
It is good to remember that among Latino veterans, many immigrants also gave their lives for this country. Because of intensive recruiting among the Latino community in the past decade, casualties of Latino soldiers have been proportionally higher than for other minority groups.
We remember today many of our young people who have been killed or wounded in combat and also those who suffer the psychological effects of war. Nevertheless, Latinos have still been unable to rise consistently to the highest ranks of the armed forces, an advance that should have already occurred, according to retired Gen. Ricardo Sánchez.
More than 70,000 non-citizens have enlisted in the U.S. armed forces and fewer than half of the permanent legal residents enlisted have become citizens, which puts them at risk of being deported if they commit any crime after being discharged. This is an unfair law that should be changed.
On Memorial Day, let’s not only remember our Latino veterans who lost their lives. Let’s also renew our commitment to change what needs to be changed so their service is worthwhile and also properly rewarded.